The Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, of which Jackson County is a part, is known for its incredible biodiversity, including in forest types. Jackson County is home to oak woodlands, mixed conifer forests, higher elevation conifer forests, and riparian forests. These forests provide a host of benefits to the county: timber, recreation, water filtration, carbon storage, and wildlife habitat just to name a few.
challenges to forest health
However, there are many challenges facing our forests. Much of the Rogue Valley is a fire-adapted ecosystem, which means that historically the environment experienced low-intensity, periodic fires, either naturally occurring or applied by Indigenous peoples; these fires are an important part of creating healthy forests and woodlands. However, forest management over the last 100 years favored fire suppression, not the frequent, low-intensity burns that were part of the historic regime in this area. This management combined with shifting climatic conditions and expansion of our human communities into the wildland interface means too often wildfires are burning larger, hotter, and posing a significant threat to our communities and ecosystems. Fire exclusion has also led to conifer encroachment that threatens oak woodlands.
In addition to the threat of large fires, changing climatic conditions, both increased temperatures and drought, are also threatening forest health and viability, as are a variety of insects and diseases; while insect and disease impacts are a natural part of a forest ecosystem, increased stress from climatic changes increases trees' susceptibility to insects and diseases. Also, the spread of nonnative insects and diseases may pose greater risk to forests.
forest restoration and management tools
Our forests are in need of restoration and ongoing management to increase their health and resiliency to current and future stressors. Practices such as thinning and sustainable harvest, prescribed fire, removal of invasive species, and restoration of native species are critical for restoring forest health. This work is needed in forests recovering from some of the large, destructive fires we've had and in forests that haven't yet faced this challenge. In some areas, restoration may also mean a transition of forest type from conifer to oaks and other species as shifting climatic conditions may no longer allow the former forest composition to flourish.
In addition to restoration, individuals can support healthy forests by helping prevent negative impacts to them. For instance, individuals can help prevent the spread of forest pests by buying wood in the area they will burn it. Individuals can also follow safe habits to avoid igniting wildfires and creating defensible space around their homes to help slow their spread; visit our all about fire page to learn more.